The Great Paschal Day or, to say it more properly, the day before Pascha, on May 1, 2021, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel and the seminarians of Saint Sophia Seminary, of Ukrainian Orthodox Church, woke up early and went to the St. Volodymyr Cathedral of UOC of USA to serve the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great for the last time in Church's year. After, they all went to the Church's hall to color Paschal eggs, a tradition of the Ukrainian people, and to help to prepare everything for the Greatest Day in the life of every Christian.
In the evening, the seminarians accompanied Archbishop Daniel to the Cathedral of St. Volodymyr. With the blessings of His Eminence, they began to read Acts of the Holy Apostles. The service began with Midnight - Service. After which the Church nave was blackened by total darkness… But immediately that darkness was conquered by the Great Light of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, that Archbishop Daniel held and then shared among the altar servers, and they in turn shared it among all people. The whole Church was shining with the Light of the Resurrection of Jesus that destroyed that darkness. The parishioners and those gathered went outside for the procession and going three times around the Church everyone proclaimed that Christ is Risen, singing about His Resurrection. Then, the most gorgeous service took place, which is Jerusalem Matins, by leading of His Eminence Archbishop Daniel. Here was read the Word of Saint John Chrysostom on Pascha, and Archbishop Daniel beautifully translated it into the language of our time, saying the same but giving it another form, so people were excited to listen to him. Following Matins there occurred another Great Service which is Divine Liturgy, where everyone could participate in Resurrection of our Lord in the Holy Communion. After Liturgy, His Eminence, clergy, seminarians, and altar servers formed a procession and went to consecrate Paschal baskets of people. After that everyone went with peace to their home.
In the Orthodox Church, the Resurrection of Christ is the main holiday of the Church's year. As the "Solemn of Solemnities", this Holy and Great Day is not even included in the number of Twelve Major Feasts, as it is standing above any feast. Christ was resurrected after the Jewish Passover, a holiday established in honor of the liberation of the Israel people from Egyptian slavery. The Resurrection of Christ became a new Passover, or Pascha, - the joy of liberation from the bondage of death. The Resurrection of Christ is the foundation of our faith. It is that first, and most important, great truth, the apostles began their sermon with. As the death of Christ on the cross accomplished the cleansing of our sins, so His resurrection granted us eternal life. Therefore, for the faithful, the Resurrection of Christ is a source of constant joy, incessant exultation, reaching its peak on the Feast of Holy Christian Pascha. As the evangelists say, the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross on Friday, about three o'clock in the afternoon, on the eve of Jewish Passover. On the evening of the same day, Joseph of Arimathea, a rich and pious man, together with Nicodemus took the body of Jesus from the cross, anointed it with perfumed substances, wrapped it in linen ("shroud"), as it was supposed to according to Jewish traditions, and buried in a stone cave. This cave Joseph carved into the rock for his own burial, but out of love for Jesus, he gave it to Him. This cave was located in the garden of Joseph, next to Golgotha, where Christ was crucified. Joseph and Nicodemus were members of the Sanhedrin (the supreme Jewish court) and at the same time secret disciples of Christ. They laid the entrance to the cave where they buried the body of Jesus with a large stone. The burial was carried out hastily and not according to all the rules since on this evening began the feast of the Jewish Passover. Despite the feast, on Saturday morning, the chief priests and scribes went to Pilate and asked him for permission to put Roman soldiers on the coffin to guard it. A seal was attached to the stone that covered the entrance to the tomb. All this was done as a precaution because they remembered the prediction of Jesus Christ that He would rise again on the third day after His death. So the Jewish leaders, without knowing it, prepared irrefutable proof of the resurrection of Christ that followed the next day. Where did the Lord stay with His soul after He died? According to the Church's beliefs, He descended into hell with His saving preaching and brought out the souls of those who believed in Him (1 Pet. 3:19). On the third day after His death, on Sunday, early in the morning, when it was still dark and the soldiers were on their service at the sealed tomb, the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The mystery of the resurrection, like the mystery of incarnation, is incomprehensible, but crucial for our salvation.
The service of Pascha began in darkness which was destroyed by the Light of the Resurrection. That action turned the attention of all people who were there, and they were impressed by what was going on and alongside excited and full of will to be enlightened by this light. His Eminence Archbishop Daniel told that this light now becomes the light of our lives, which transforms us together with Jesus in a new and perfect man. A subtle motion of smile was seen on every face. The great joy dwelt in the hearts of all people, and although the service was long and at midnight the church was full of people who gathered together to pray and participate in this service. After the consecration of Paschal baskets, His Eminence told everyone to go in peace and live Pascha, experience it every moment of their lives.
Written by Subdeacon Pavlo Vysotskyi